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gs logo Waynesboro North 340 Campground
Waynesboro, Virginia
gs logo Newport News Park Campground
Newport News, Virginia
gs logo North Landing Beach RV Resort & Cottages
Virginia Beach, Virginia
gs logo Chincoteague Island KOA
Chincoteague Island, Virginia

The Virginia Shoreline

Discover a watery wonderland with swimming ponies and iconic ships

The Virginia Shore ticks off almost all the boxes when it comes to fun vacation destinations. Fecund marshes teeming with wildlife, placid open waters perfect for swimming and kayaking, an accessible tapestry of hiking/biking trails and a diverse cache of restaurants, excellent museums and family attractions keep East Coast sunseekers entertained all summer long.

Still not satisfied? Get off the beaten track and experience Virginia’s state parks, pristine national seashore and stunning barrier islands. Extroverted Virginia Beach forms the base for most travelers, while the once rough-hewn port of Norfolk is a vibrant waterside town with serious cultural cred.

Virginia Beach

When the mercury rises, Virginia Beach rises to the occasion as the region’s epicenter for fun in the sun. The largest of Virginia’s beaches, the city boasts 6 miles of sandy shore complete with surfers, volleyball players and swimmers. The lively 3-mile boardwalk, punctuated with an array of arcades, street performers and themed eateries, is fronted by a lush parkway with a fishing pier, concessions, restaurants, a bar and a bike trail.

If you’d like to escape the maddening crowds, head to the more tranquil North End Beach or Sandbridge, south of Virginia Beach. Beyond the region’s natural pleasures, there’s plenty of exhilaration on wheels with go-kart racing at Motor World, wet-and-wild fun at the Virginia Beach Ocean Breeze Waterpark and a clutch of illuminating exhibits at the Virginia Beach Aquarium and Marine Science Center.

Parks and Recreation

Unfurling through wetlands for some 2,888 acres (including just over a mile of beach along the Chesapeake Bay), First Landing State Park gives visitors a choice of hiking, biking, swimming or boating. A 19-mile hiking trail network meanders through the park’s signature habitats, including cypress swamp, salt marsh, maritime forest, freshwater wetlands, dunes and bay shoreline.

Some 18 miles south of Virginia Beach, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge comprises 8,000 acres of freshwater refuge. With colossal sand dunes, mystical maritime forests, tranquil ponds and wild ocean beach (accessed by marsh trails), these pristine barrier islands are a far cry from the crowds of Virginia Beach.

A popular excursion is to sign up for a tram tour from Little Island Park in Sandbridge along the West Dike Trail and through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge before culminating at False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach’s southeast corner. One of the last undisturbed coastal environments on the East Coast, this stunning mile-wide barrier spit between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean comprises 6 miles of pristine beaches, 9 miles of hiking/biking trails and a highly praised environmental educational center.

You don’t find any shortage of nautical beacons in the area. The Cape Henry Lighthouse and Assateague Light both belong on travelers’ bucket lists.

Wild at Heart

From Virginia Beach, the 17-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge is not only an incredible feat of engineering but provides a portal to Virginia’s rural Eastern Shore, which is home to three gorgeous beaches. Chincoteague Island — sometimes regarded as a less touristy Hamptons — is famed not only for its beaches but for its traditional village, superb seafood (namely clams, oysters and crabs) and recreation, including beach-combing, boating, fishing, kayaking, hiking, and watching for dolphins and birds.

The Assateague bridge (built in 1962) provides vehicle access from Chincoteague to its sibling island, Assateague, which features a glorious swathe of protected seashore, miles of hiking trails, a wildlife refuge brimming with birds and an idyllic sanctuary for the island’s famed wild ponies. The children’s book Misty of Chincoteague helped catapult Chincoteague Island and its herds of wild ponies onto the tourist radar. Tourists also flock here every July to catch the Chincoteague Pony Swim, in which about 150 of the equines swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island. Held during the mild slack tide, the 90-year-old tradition is conducted by so-called saltwater cowboys, who round up the ponies and coax them across the water for auction.

Norfolk

In the throes of a renaissance, the formerly rowdy town of Norfolk is known nationwide for its military largesse. Home to the largest navy base in the world, as well as one of NATO’s two Strategic Command headquarters, Norfolk has cast off its reputation as a dubious port of call and now offers all the poise and trappings of a charming coastal town. There are pavement cafés in the historic village of Ghent, a revamped Waterside District with eclectic waterfront stores, a thriving arts scene and several worthy cultural institutions.

Located amid Norfolk’s bustling docks, the stellar Nauticus Museum features the USS Wisconsin, a World War II-era battleship that saw action in the South Pacific. Walk the decks of this formidable vessel on a self-guided tour, or take a guided journey topside for a glimpse of maritime history. Just 1 mile north, the Chrysler Museum of Art is hailed as one of North America’s most prestigious art museums. Chrysler’s dazzling collection includes works by Renoir, Rubens, Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse, Warhol and Pollock, as well as a decorative-arts collection with art nouveau furnishings and glass objects spanning the 6th century B.C. to the present. Don’t miss the glorious Tiffany glassworks, French art glass and English cameo.

For More Information

Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism

757-331-1660

www.esvatourism.org

Virginia Tourism Corporation

804-545-5500

www.virginia.org